Critical linking

Things that made me go ooh:

  • The NY Times US dialect quiz. An oldie but a goodie — popular topic in my household — I’m working on some US content strategy, and V. is double-checking he really is a Midwest native.
  • Is this my interface or yours? Examining how products label functions for different points of view.
  • Self-service laundry supplies. A Chilean start-up is bringing its automated bulk-dispensing system for staple food and cleaning product to NYC— opening up economies of scale to customers at all income levels. Bring your own packaging ensures extra eco-credentials. [Via Strands of Genius]
  • BrainyTab. A cognitive bias, mental model or dark pattern explained every time you open a new tab to help improve your decision-making process.
  • User personas… Peloton’s new characters look nothing like the Peloton wife, here’s why.

This week I am also thinking about:

Moving to Italy on a semi-permanent basis (we’ve been hanging out here and in Switzerland since July, cat included). Related: how much pasta can I squeeze in my luggage? Looking at to organise my notes and life. How nice it is to have my hair ‘done’ for the first time all year.


COVID and the consumer

It sounds a bit like Beauty and the Beast, however, there’s no happy ending where you make out with a prince. Talking candlesticks and sourdough starters, for sure. A recent report from Mintel explored the impact that COVID-19 is likely to have on the out-of-home leisure industry, which includes restaurants, casinos, gyms, cinemas, and my employer’s unique position in music entertainment.

“COVID-19 will inflict severe damage to the out-of-home leisure industry over the next few years, whilst sectors that were already struggling, such as nightclubs, may never fully recover. However, the crisis will also prove to be the catalyst for the launch and development of more digital services that allow consumers to replicate out-of-home experiences in the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Crucially, the underlying consumer trend towards valuing experiences over possessions means that the sector will eventually regain lost ground, even if the brands and the formats are very different to the pre-COVID world.”

–    Paul Davies, Category Director – Leisure, Foodservice, Travel and B2B Research – 24 June 2020

Having read the report, here’s a TLDR;

  • Estimated severe impact on the sector in the medium term (6 to 24 months), with a medium impact in the next 2 to 5 years
  • Consumer anxiety levels align with case curve (so currently diminishing in the UK, rising in the US)
  • Gyms may not recover as alternate fitness routines continue
  • Consumer confidence in their financial situation over the next year? 50% within the UK are concerned but think it’ll be ok, and 30% confident it will remain stable
  • Boutique is best, and differentiation is better than discounting

As with everything right now, let’s wait and see how this pans out.

Bonus reading: on losing the American desire to shop — I Don’t Feel Like Buying Stuff Anymore, via BuzzFeed.


Focus groups

A short video (less than five minutes) on how the focus group came to be. Focus groups have remained largely the same for decades, but how will they be affected by the new ‘low-touch’ economy? I’ve been running several user interviews via video-call, but a group of strangers… Not yet but entirely possible.


The big question

I started my first weekly program in Consumer Psychology this week, and I’m planning on using this space to make notes, jot down musings, and integrate with my existing work.

What exactly is consumer psychology?

Understanding the behaviour of consumers and how it relates to the decisions they make, both big and small.

Looking at the research, consumer psychology addresses an array of subjects. Some of the more popular areas include decision-making, consumer judgement, perception and attention, information processing, motivational determinants of consumer behaviour, attitude formation and change, and influences of advertising upon consumer responses (Jansson-Boyd, 201o).

There’s also something to be said about how consumption makes them feel — we live in a world where signposting who you are as a person seems to be primarily through purchases.

The other day a friend and I discussed whether the vast majority of people would still certain purchase goods and services if they couldn’t tell anyone. Nobody knows the brand or the value. For instance, like Wiley, you buy and wear a Rolex. However, you’re not allowed to tell anyone, write a hit about it, or Instagram it. Would you still want one?

This thought-experiment is particularly interesting in the ‘age of the influencer’, which has been impacted by COVID-19. Who are you, and what is your brand if you can’t consume?

Influencers are supposed to be aspirational; they are supposed to be in places we want to be, in clothes we want to wear, doing things we want to do. Without that so-called “FOMO,” it’s hard to see what need they really serve.

Coronavirus Could Finally Pop the Influencer Bubble, Vice

In 2003, Kasser & Kanner said there is no way of escaping the fact that consumption is a part of humans’ everyday lives, but times, they are-a-changing. Watch this space.


New frontiers

Guess who’s back, back again… Last time we met, dear reader, it was a warm, endless, globe-trotting, city-hopping summer in another decade. Today, I write from my living room in East London where I have been watching the world go by, as the UK edges past two months in lockdown. What better time than now to invigorate my output?

Aside from a worldwide pandemic, a few things that are different: I have a relatively new job in UX writing in the music technology industry, which I love. I have a cat, which I love. There’s a man with a beard from Chicago who lives at my house, who I love. I have gained an MA in Digital Management and started an MSc in Business and Organisational Psychology, which excites me.

I’m hoping to move forward with this space, showcasing inspiration from and about the internet, UX practices, consumer psychology, writing and literature, and other ‘cool shit I like’.


Critical linking 09

Critical Linking

? To make sense of messy research, get visual, says the IDEO design team. I feel post-its coming on. LINK

? The surprising link between language and depression. LINK

“Now, in a whole long day of croissants in the morning and multiple dog walks and stops at the bodega for yogurt and jam, I may speak with people I care about only in type.”

Elizabeth Wurtzel, on self-help

? The Pencilsword on a plate – a short comic about privilege by perennial favourite, Kiwi illustrator Toby Morris. LINK

? A heart-warming piece on the human/doge relationship. Love rarely touches the reasoning parts of the brain. It touches the dreamy parts, the devoted parts—it touches the parts we sometimes call the heart. For many thousands of years, it’s there that our dogs have lived. LINK

? This Friday the UK will see the longest lunar eclipse in a century. Blood moon! LINK

? Native Land – a map of indigenous territories. LINK

♻ The phrase ‘men are trash’ can actually be directly translated into; ‘masculinity is in transition and it’s not moving fucking fast enough.’ LINK

This week I’m also thinking about:

  • Not much due to the London heatwave
  • Planning trips to Norway, Dublin, Jordan and Egypt, followed by New Zealand in December
  • Theatre – planning to see Killer Joe (aka Orlando Bloom’s butt), Summer & Smoke, Hamilton, the Heathers musical


The otter is ninety percent water
Ten percent God.
This is a mastery
We have not fathomed in a million years.
I saw one once, off the teeth of western Scotland,
Playing games with the Atlantic –
Three feet of gymnastics
Taking on an ocean.

– Kenneth Steven


Critical linking 08

Critical Linking

? Below the Surface – what will you find when you dredge an Amsterdam canal? LINK

? What if you knew you were going to die? Most likely, though, the majority of individuals would toggle between being hyper-motivated and nihilistic. LINK

⏳ A room of one’s own for writers, a la Virginia Woolf – I love this idea. LINK

? The origins of the phrase Hurry Slowly. As a teenager, I lived on the outskirts of a ‘Slow Living’ village, a physical ode to mindfulness, so this resonates. Perhaps more now than it did then! LINK

? 12 things everyone should understand about tech. LINK

? The Lotus Blossom technique for creative idea generation. LINK

? Learning to Speak Lingerie. Chinese lingerie merchants in Egypt and the inroads of globalisation. LINK

? Where the success leaks out (in your practice). LINK

? Drake’s Scorpion album as explained by an astrologer and an entomologist. LINK

⚽ The psychology of the England football team – great insight into how modern teams can harness their power. LINK



Critical linking 07

Critical Linking

? What does randomness look like? Featuring glow-worms from the Waitomo caves. LINK

?? Photos of London in the Blitz. LINK

? A quest to get inside Britain’s biggest weed greenhouse…The UK is the world’s biggest exporter of cannabis-derived medicines. LINK

? The ultimate psychology reading list via the BPS. LINK

? “The reputation laundering firm that ruined its own reputation”.A fascinating collapse – the Bell Pottinger story. Hits close to home as I was working in PR in London at the time, and am still a member of the PRCA… It’s a shocking story, but unfortunately, something that seems to happen again and again. LINK

? The myth of learning styles. LINK

? Immodest women alert! Why female doctors shouldn’t hide their titles. LINK

?? Winnow’s podcast of the week: She’s In Russia. LINK


Megan Married Herself by Caroline Bird

She arrived at the country mansion in a silver limousine.
She’d sent out invitations and everything:
her name written twice with “&” in the middle,
the calligraphy of coupling.
She strode down the aisle to “At Last” by Etta James,
faced the celebrant like a keen soldier reporting for duty,
her voice shaky yet sure. I do. I do.
“You may now kiss the mirror.” Applause. Confetti.
Every single one of the hundred and forty guests
deemed the service “unimprovable.”
Especially the vows. So “from the heart.”
Her wedding gown was ivory; pointedly off-white,
“After all, we’ve shared a bed for thirty-two years,”
she quipped in her first speech,
“I’m hardly virginal if you know what I mean.”
(No one knew exactly what she meant.)
Not a soul questioned their devotion.
You only had to look at them. Hand cupped in hand.
Smiling out of the same eyes. You could sense
their secret language, bone-deep, blended blood.
Toasts were frequent, tearful. One guest
eyed his wife — hovering harmlessly at the bar — and
imagined what his life might’ve been if
he’d responded, years ago, to that offer in his head:
“I’m the only one who will ever truly understand you.
Marry me, Derek. I love you. Marry me.”
At the time, he hadn’t taken his proposal seriously.
He recharged his champagne flute, watched
the newlywed cut her five-tiered cake, both hands
on the knife. “Is it too late for us to try?” Derek whispered
to no one, as the bride glided herself onto the dance floor,
taking turns first to lead then follow.